Blue Jays: No reason to be patient in free agency anymore

TORONTO, CANADA - NOVEMBER 2: Mark Shapiro speaks to the media as he is introduced as president of the Toronto Blue Jays during a press conference on November 2, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - NOVEMBER 2: Mark Shapiro speaks to the media as he is introduced as president of the Toronto Blue Jays during a press conference on November 2, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

The Blue Jays front office understandably wanted to wait out the free agent market this year, and it’s worked again as market prices continue to drop. Now that the calendar has flipped to February, there’s no reason to be patient anymore.

Once again Major League Baseball finds itself in an interesting position when it comes to free agency, as some of the best players on the market are still looking for their next contract into offseason’s fourth month. That’s a result of a widespread change in philosophy from MLB teams when it comes to contract length, player value, and even how they view being a true contender, but it’s still a troubling trend.

The Blue Jays have largely received a pass on this discussion this offseason, mostly because they’re on the cusp of a rebuild. The same could be said for nearly half of the teams in baseball right now, but to the Blue Jays’ credit they did just come off a successful run of contention and had an aging club that was rapidly getting worse, so a rebuild makes all the sense in the world.

That said, it doesn’t mean that the Blue Jays can’t spend a little bit of money to help field a competitive product, and now that we’re into February it’s time that Ross Atkins and company start to consider as much. Chances are the position player side of things is more or less set for 2019 right now, but Atkins has admitted several times that they could use some more pitching help, and it’s hard to argue with that idea. Whether it’s another starter, or a reliever or two, the Blue Jays could benefit from the extra depth, and there’s still plenty of it available.

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Not only are there players still looking for contracts, but the prices have fallen into a range that is starting to get a little comical. For example, Wade Miley signed a one year, 4.5 million dollars contract with the Astros earlier this week. He’s not exactly a premium free agent, but he’s a solid starting pitcher who had a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts year. Sure, he’s not going to produce like that again, but 4.5 million is all he got?

Look no further than the Blue Jays former change-up artist in Marco Estrada for another example. Coming off contracts that paid him an average of 13 million over the last three seasons, Estrada had to settle for a one year, four million dollar contract to sign in Oakland. Granted, he had a rough 2018 season, but that’s still chump change to gamble on a rebound from a talented starter.

Looking at what’s left on the free agent market, there has to be a bargain waiting for the Blue Jays as well, if they’re actually interested in snapping it up.

As far as starters go, Dallas Keuchel is still sitting there ripe for the taking, but I don’t think the Blue Jays were ever really serious on signing him. Beyond him though, veterans like Gio Gonzalez, Ervin Santana, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and more are still available, and could definitely help the rotation get through a 162 game campaign. At this stage of the offseason, none of those guys are going to cost a fortune either.

There are plenty of useful bullpen arms still waiting for a job as well, such as Sergio Romo, Jake Diekman, Tony Sipp, Jerry Blevins, Adam Warren, and of course John Axford, just to name a handful of available veterans. The bullpen is arguably the greatest area of need for the Blue Jays at this stage of the offseason as well, and hopefully Atkins is prepared to offer some MLB contracts this year, even if he doesn’t have to.

Last season he managed to get both Axford and Tyler Clippard to agree to MiLB contracts, and it’s entirely possible that the front office is waiting out a similar scenario right now. That said, the free agent market has now regressed to a point where it really shouldn’t matter. I’m confident there will be plenty of pitchers willing to sign for something like what Seunghwan Oh got last year at 1.75 million with an option for 2.5 million for 2019, and now is the time for Atkins to look for some valuable contributors and potential trade chips down that would agree to something similar.

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If you’re thinking that maybe free agents don’t want to come to a rebuilding team, I wouldn’t be so sure. The Blue Jays can offer opportunity, the potential to be dealt to a contender this summer, and most importantly at point of the offseason, a job. With less than two weeks before pitchers report to Spring training, here’s hoping the Blue Jays are sifting through the bargain bin. It’s still pretty full.